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It’s no secret that anxiety has been on the rise in modern society, particularly in the United States. There are plenty of culprits to blame: social media, economic recession, and job stress, to name a few. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, anxiety levels have gone through the roof. In fact, there’s some evidence that the global pandemic is causing a mental health crisis, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Can acupuncture and Oriental medicine help those experiencing anxiety right now? And how?

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a common mental and physical reaction to stress. You may have felt anxiety if you’ve had fear or apprehension about the future, such as stage fright before a play or butterflies in your stomach before a big job interview. These feelings come naturally from the chemicals your brain and body release to keep you safe from harm. But high-stress situations — like the COVID-19 pandemic — can increase our body’s need to release these chemicals, and can lead to an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by feelings of fear interrupting daily life and lasting for longer than six months. Some symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Fear of normal everyday activities, such as leaving the house or talking to people
  • Physical discomfort such as increased breathing and heart rate
  • Restlessness or trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

Often anxiety interferes with a person’s ability to live life to its fullest. In some cases, people may experience an anxiety attack or panic attack. In these instances, a person may feel intense fear and physical side effects, such as dizziness, sweating, dry mouth, or numbness or tingling. 

Why is anxiety higher during COVID-19?

People feel anxiety for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest triggers of anxiety is the sense of a threat. Obviously a global pandemic of a disease that has a high infection rate and may cause death is a major threat to everyone, and it’s no wonder people would experience anxiety at the thought of it. The uncertainty around what may happen to loved ones who get sick, as well as when quarantine will end and what will happen to the economy, adds quite a bit to this sense of threat. 

However, another reason anxiety is higher right now is because people can’t get the support they need to soothe their worries. Social interaction, including talking and even touching other people, can be a major release for anxiety and stress. Right now, many people are not only facing an uncertain future; they’re also unable to share their feelings with friends and family in a way they normally would.

How can acupuncture and Oriental medicine help with anxiety?

Many people seek medical help for anxiety. This can come in the form of pills that will relax you. Unfortunately, these pills can only soothe some of the symptoms of anxiety, and don’t get to the root causes of anxiety.

In Oriental medicine, anxiety is caused by an imbalance in the body, particularly in the upward and downward motion of flow. This means that qi (the circulating life energy) and blood are unable to circulate well. When this imbalance first starts, the body is irritated, but left untreated, this improper flow becomes anxiety. In order to treat anxiety, we must first bring back balance to the body.

Acupuncture approaches balance by first addressing mirrored organs that face each other, such as the lung and bladder. These facing organs are called “zang-fu”. When treating anxiety with acupuncture, Dr. Ko addresses the zang-fu that control emotions by helping to fill a deficiency on one side and pull out excess on the other side to harmonize them. 

Dr. Ko may also prescribe herbal treatments that have a calming effect on the mind, such as:

  • Ziziphus jujuba var. spinosa (suan zao ren)
  • Cyperus rotundus (xiang fu)
  • Amomum villosum (sha ren)
  • Euphoria longan (Lour.) steud (lóng yǎn)

Finding the right acupuncture treatment for your distress

At 120 Acupuncture Clinic, we are committed to creating personalized treatment plans for all of our patients. Dr. Ko and his team will listen to your issues and determine the best treatment plan. 

We are also committed to staying open during the quarantine and COVID-19 pandemic. We are practicing social distancing and ensuring sanitation guidelines are followed. You can feel safe booking an appointment with us to treat your anxiety or other issues.

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